Online Registered Nurse Degrees

What Is a Registered Nurse?

Registered nurses, or RNs, treat and educate patients, provide advice and support to patients' families, record medical histories and symptoms, perform diagnostic tests, analyze results, operate medical machinery, administer treatment and medications, and help with patient follow-up.

Nurses specialize in a specific area. They can focus on a certain disease like cancer, a certain organ or body system such as the heart or lungs, a specific setting the emergency room or physician's office, or a certain area of the population such as children or the elderly.

What Training or Degree Does a Registered Nurse Need?

You must graduate from an accredited program and obtain a license in order to practice nursing. This requires passing a national exam called the NCLEX-RN exam. However, your training prior to this exam can vary. You may decide among a bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma course. Most often a registered nurse will start with an ADN, and may pursue a more advanced training program later. A BSN does offer greater advancement opportunities and options, but it also takes longer and costs more. If you do wish to obtain a master's or doctoral degree someday, then you will need your BSN first.

Career Outlook and Salary Ranges

Registered nurses should have the second largest number of new jobs among all occupations, signifying excellent job opportunities for everyone in this field no matter their specialty. This also means that, to attract applicants, nurses may be offered signing bonuses, family-friendly work schedules, and subsidized training.

Based on a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary earned by an RN in 2009 was $63,750. The range of salaries for RNs was quite considerable, from $43,970 to $93,700 per year.

Factors Affecting the RN Salary

There are multiple factors that affect where an RN's salary falls on the pay scale.

  • Education: RNs have a variety of degrees, such as an associate degree in nursing (ADN), bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN), or a diploma. Additionally, RNs may hold master's of science in nursing degree (MSN), or one of several types of doctoral degrees. RNs with more education are likely to hold the more advanced positions.
  • Industry: RNs working for employment services made the most, while those working in nursing homes made the least.
  • Level of Career Advancement: Entry-level staff RNs make a salary towards the low end of the pay scale, while RNs in senior-level management jobs make towards the high end of the pay scale.
  • Length of Experience: As in other careers, those workers with the most experience are likely to earn higher salaries.

Thus, working in the right industry, holding an advanced degree, and having considerable work experience can earn an RN a salary towards the high end of the pay scale.

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